Joe Biden: More of the Same from the Democrats

by Jeff Siegel

The news that Barack Obama picked Joe Biden as his running mate is not surprising — one corporate Democrat turning to another. The news is that so many people see Biden as so different from Obama.

You’ll hear words like experienced and world-wise and mature, in contrast to Obama’s one-term resumé. You’ll especially hear that Biden is a foreign policy genius. Or, as The New York Times put it: “Mr. Obama’s choice of Mr. Biden suggested some of the weaknesses the Obama campaign is trying to address.”

Sigh. Biden is a five-term senator from Delaware who has never served in the military and has been on the government payroll for most of his working life. What’s so different about that? Hell, that sounds like Vice President Dick Cheney. And, for what it’s worth, as near as I can tell, after going through the voting records and ratings compiled by The National Journal, Biden may actually be more liberal than Obama.

Which is to say each is about as liberal as a Chuck Percy Republican (if any still existed). And Biden’s expertise in foreign policy? Biden voted to support the Iraq War, and then changed his mind.

Which puts him in good company with Obama, who voted against the war and then changed his mind. Or, as Salon so deftly noted when Biden ran for president last year:

Biden, along with his fellow Sens. Clinton, Edwards and Chris Dodd, voted for the 2002 resolution permitting Bush to launch the war. During a 2005 interview with me, Biden recanted his vote, saying, "I never figured on the absolute incompetence of the administration ... If I knew Cheney and Rumsfeld so wholly possessed the president's attention, I never would have voted for that."

If that’s what experience does for you, give me Jimmy Carter. I am not a five-term member of the Senate who is reputed to be a foreign policy genius, but even I knew better than to trust the White House. And the truly scary thing about that quote? That the Iraq War was a good idea that was ruined by the Bushies. Note to Joe Biden: The Iraq War was a lousy idea then and it’s still a lousy idea. It accomplished nothing, save to rile up radical Arabs, kill U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians, and give George Bush a chance to look pompous. And Bush already looks pompous enough.

And people wonder why I’ve given up the Democrats.

For more background on the 2008 campaign, please see these archival posts:
(The photo of Sen. Joe Biden shows him at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in 2005. The photo is © copyright the World Economic Forum and is by photographer Remy Steinegger. However, the World Economic Forum offers this photo for use through Flickr, using a Creative Commons License.)

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Liberal Arts Dude said...

Hi Jeff

Another good post. I appreciate your efforts in being critical of the Democratic Party. I was wondering if you will consider writing a post along the theme of "if both Democrats and Republicans are bad -- what's a concerned citizen to do and what is the most effective way to exercise one's democratic rights as a citizen in the American political system?"

I'd be curious to get your take on efforts by third parties, the independent movement, and non-partisan reform organizations such as FairVote. Whether one is a self-professed Progressive or not, any American citizen who is concerned about where this country is headed should have some means or outlet for democratic participation beyond the confines of the dysfunctional politics both major parties.

I often deal with politics for political outsiders in my blog so you are welcome to visit there and comment as well.

Jeff Siegel said...

Thanks for the kind words.

I have voted for third parties (though not Ross Perot) a couple of times, and, as I have explained here, I don't see it as a wasted voted. And, though most people don't know it, the Republicans were a third party when they started.

What's holding back a third party today? Two things: The political elite doesn't see a need for change. They're satisfied with things the way they are -- the corporate cash, lobbyist perks, and all the rest. In the past, third parties were boosted by disaffected members of the elite. The Populists, through William Jennings Bryan, more or less took over the Democratic Party, and Teddy Roosevelt almost destroyed the Republicans when he ran as a Progressive.

The other problem? The voters. We don't vote our self interest. We vote our fears, and we let the elite, both Democratic and Republican, manipulate us. People in Ohio stood in line in 2000 to vote for George Bush, even though his policies would make them poorer and less well off. But they didn't care.

What fascinates and appalls me about this election is that the elite and the voters agree the economy is the issue. But no one wants to face up to it. McCain says we should stay the course and Obama wants to give stimulus checks. What kind of choice is that for the voters? The economy has serious structural flaws, thanks to 28 years of financial services deregulation, the change from a manufacturing to a service economy, and a tax system that punishes the poor and rewards the rich.

The problem with the reforms you mention is not that they wouldn't be helpful, but that they're the equivalent of taking aspirin for a broken leg. None of it makes a difference until voters vote their self-interest. Am I getting screwed? Well, then let's throw the bums out. And very few people vote that way any more.

Liberal Arts Dude said...

Hi Jeff

Thanks for your response. I am baffled as well as to the voting behavior of Americans. One would think with the dissatisfaction people have of the two major parties that third parties and non-mainstream political movements will have a bonanza or that people will stay home in droves come voting day in protest. Yet the past few elections we see record turnout on the voting booth with the vast majority of voters opting for either one of the two major parties.

I sense that more than ever people want to be involved in politics in a meaningful way beyond just voting every four years and have grown skeptical and dissatisfied with the politics of both major parties. However, there really aren't any ready outlets in place that would accommodate them. In my own experience I really have to research and seek out people and organizations other than those affiliated with either major party. And I live in Washington DC where there is plenty of political activity. What would be my options if I were living in a small town or in the heartland of the US? I suspect, not much.

Rick Rockwell said...

Liberal Arts Dude… thanks so much for your insightful and probing comments and questions.

As someone who has voted for mostly third party candidates, I know from experience it is difficult to find alternative political movements in small town America. It does take work. And the truth is these days, many Americans are not interested in citizenship that takes much work. This is another reason the two major parties dominate: they are very good at retail politics: “Watch our TV spots and go vote. That’s citizenship.”

Some of the energy for alternative solutions has been siphoned off by the Obama movement in this election, as many were convinced, despite his inexperience and contradictory voting record, that his rhetoric spelled out a solution. The truth is we are saddled with the choices we have for this election and that gives very little opportunity to those seeking alternative solutions. The Green Party has not brought us viable candidates. And some of us must ponder if Nader truly is where that alternative vote should go given that he doesn’t seem serious about building momentum for a real alternative to the two major parties.

No, what needs to be resolved is that no matter how this election turns out that folks go to work right away on constructing a credible alternative for those of us on the disaffected left, the folks who have not compromised on liberalism. The truth is such efforts would take a generation of work to bear real fruit, and unfortunately American history is littered with the failures of left-wing movements that cratered on the shoals of personality conflicts and battles over the ego and will of the founders of such movements. But more credible efforts must be made for 2012. I think if people were given more such opportunities, as you note, then perhaps we can change voting patterns. But it won’t come quickly.

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